Arthritis Home > What Is Dexamethasone Used For?

Although the uses of dexamethasone are varied, ranging from allergic conditions to endocrine disorders to certain cancers, the drug should only be prescribed on a short-term basis. Using this medication for more than a few weeks can cause the body to stop producing its own adrenal hormones, leading to dangerous side effects. Both children and older adults can use dexamethasone, but may require extra monitoring.

An Overview of Dexamethasone Uses

Dexamethasone is a prescription corticosteroid (also called glucocorticoid or just "steroid") medication. It comes in several different dosage forms, including tablets, eye drops, ear drops, oral liquids, and injections, and is used to treat many different health conditions. Some of the conditions dexamethasone is approved to treat include:
  • Allergic conditions, such as asthma, dermatitis, and allergic reactions
  • Skin conditions, such as mycosis fungoides (a rare type of skin lymphoma, or tumor of the blood), psoriasis, pemphigus (an autoimmune disease that causes blisters of the skin and mucous membranes), and severe allergic drug reactions
  • Hormonal (endocrine) disorders, such as adrenal insufficiency, high blood calcium (hypercalcemia) from cancer, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (a genetic disease of the adrenal gland)
  • Certain inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Symptomatic relief of certain cancers, such as metastatic brain tumors, leukemia, and lymphoma
  • Nervous system conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, brain swelling (cerebral edema) associated with a brain tumor, and head injury
  • Eye conditions, such as uveitis, temporal arteritis, keratitis, and other inflammatory conditions of the eye
  • Inflammation from otitis externa (an external ear infection, sometimes called "swimmer's ear")
  • Treatment of high urine protein (proteinuria) or to increase urine production in kidney problems or systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Respiratory disorders, including certain types of tuberculosis, pneumonia, and sarcoidosis
  • Rheumatic diseases, such as gout, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Dexamethasone is often used short-term to treat these conditions until symptoms improve or other treatments can control symptoms. Some people, however, will need to use dexamethasone for a longer period.
This medication is usually given orally (by mouth) for most of the conditions listed here. The eye drop or eye injection may be used for eye conditions, and the ear drop may be used for ear conditions.
Dexamethasone may also be given by intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injection for potentially serious conditions, such as cerebral edema (swelling around the brain) or shock (a life-threatening condition in which the body is not getting enough blood flow).
In many cases, IV or IM treatment is followed by oral treatment. Dexamethasone may be given as an injection into a joint, tendon, or other affected area when used for arthritis or similar conditions.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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